WRC 2015 – Rally Deutschland
After three days of asphalt-flavored action through vineyards, military tracks and flowing country roads, Sebastien Ogier took the win in Germany over the weekend, positioning him ever closer to clinching his third consecutive World Rally Championship title. Fellow Volkswagen teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen joined him on the podium, making for a clean 1-2-3 all-Polo R VW sweep at the make’s home event. Latvala finished 23 seconds behind Ogier, while Mikkelsen trailed by an additional 94 seconds.
Germany marked Ogier’s sixth win for the 2015 season and his 30th career victory, placing him alongside Marcus Gronholm in second for most all-time wins (Sebastien Loeb still holds the outright record at an astonishing 78 wins). In order to secure his third driver’s championship, all that’s left for Ogier to do is finish ahead of Latvala at next month’s Rally Australia.
However, Ogier said the focus in Germany was not on the driver’s championship, but rather on bringing a win to VW at its home event, something the make has failed to do since it re-entered the WRC in 2013.
“It was a perfect rally and that was the target, to try to finally give a victory here to my team and I’m proud to achieve that,” Ogier said. “The third title is getting really close so that’s fantastic, but this weekend the interests of the team were bigger than mine.”
The WRC next heads down under for Rally Australia, September 10th – 13th.
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The Full Story
Ogier was once again in impressive form for Rally Deutschland, leading all but two of the event’s 21 demanding stages. After a back-and-forth tussle with Latvala, Ogier ended Friday 10 seconds in front of his teammate, extending his lead to over 30 seconds on Saturday after a commanding run through the second Panzerplatte Long test.
Both Latvala and Ogier crashed out of the rally last year, with the Finn suffering the disappointment of dropping out from the leading position on the last day in 2014. It’s no surprise then that a second place this year came as a big relief: “Now I can relax a bit,” Latvala said after crossing the finish line. “I’ve never driven this stage as well as I did now. I know now why I made the mistake last year, my notes were too fast. I wish I could use a time machine to go back a year. You learn every day, every day is a school day!”
Early on, Northern Irishman Kris Meeke looked to challenge Mikkelsen for the podium, but unfortunately went off the road on Friday, allowing the Norwegian the illusion of comfort on his way to third. Seeing an opportunity, Spain’s Dani Sordo charged ahead, reducing the gap on Sunday. However, he was unable to eclipse the VW, instead settling for fourth by fending off fellow Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville. Neuville managed to round out the top five. Meanwhile, up-and-comer Elfyn Evans gave a solid performance for Ford, earning the young Brit an impressive sixth-place finish, the only non-VW driver to win a stage.
Traditionally, Ogier has dominated the Power Stage, garnering maximum championship points to pad his already impressive lead. This time around, Ogier found discretion preferable, finishing sixth in the stage: “I just wanted to finish,” Ogier explained. “It would have been stupid to take a risk and break this fantastic 1-2-3. I wanted it so much for the team.”
Latvala managed to capitalize on Ogier’s caution, taking the Power Stage win for three additional bonus points. Kris Meeke got two points for second as consolation for Friday’s off, while Dani Sordo got one point for third.
WRC 2015 So Far
After promising a win in Germany to the top VW brass last year, Ogier and company delivered.
“It’s a big relief to win this rally especially,” Ogier said. “The pressure was on all weekend because everyone expected us to be successful on our home round but we made it.”
However, it’s hard to forget Ogier’s proximity to another championship victory, with the Frenchman adding, “I’m so close to my third title and it’s been a fantastic weekend for us.”
In the Driver’s Standings, Ogier is miles ahead with 207 points, while Latvala trails at 114 points and Mikkelsen sits at third with 98 points. Mads Ostberg is fourth with 90 points and Neuville is fifth with 80 points.
Clearly, this year’s championship is all but secured for Ogier. VW looks simply relentless, especially with the skillful Ogier behind the wheel. Only four events remain on the calendar, and with Ogier basically confirmed for his third championship win, the attention now turns to second and third.
The real question is – can Volkswagen be stopped?